Taysha DeVaughan. Courtesy of the candidate.

Democrats have nominated Wise County community activist Taysha DeVaughan as their congressional candidate in the 9th district. She will face Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem, in the November general election.

The Democrats’ 9th Congressional District Committee made the nomination after no candidate qualified for the primary ballot. In a release, the committee hailed “the inspiring and historic nomination of Taysha DeVaughan, enrolled member of the Comanche Nation and first ever Indigenous American candidate for Congress in the Fighting 9th Congressional District of Virginia.”

“I come from a culture where preserving and carrying forward our peoples’traditions and values is a duty,” DeVaughan said in a statement. “I recognize that true success requires planning that is looking ahead beyond ourselves because what we do today, good or bad, is the next generation’s inheritance. As we look to the future, we must preserve our traditional values in the 9th, we must also embrace the youth of our communities and what they want and deserve. All while protecting our aging population’s social security, Medicare and retirement benefits.” 

DeVaughan works in donor engagement and development for the Appalachian Community Fund, a non-profit that according to its website works for “progressive social change” to “address systemic problems of poverty, racism, and social inequity.”

According to the fund’s website, DeVaughan is “a UVA-Wise graduate in communications who has personally been invested in social justice from an early age. Native-born to Southwest Oklahoma she moved to Wise, Virginia 9 years ago with her son.”

She is a former president of Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, a non-profit environmental organization that opposes mountaintop revmoval “while addressing current and legacy cost of extraction as well as supporting a just transition in the Appalachian region.”

She also serves on the coordinating committee for the Alliance for Appalachia, which opposes mountaintop removal, according to the Appalachian Community Fund website. Her bio there also says “DeVaughan was thrust into social justice work after the DAPL XL [Dakota Access] pipeline incident at Standing Rock Indian Reservation in the Dakotas. Since then she has dedicated her time and communication skills going forward with non-profit organizations that are dedicated to the liberation of oppressive systems in multiple-facets.”

In 2019, then-Governor Ralph Northam appointed DeVaughan to the Virginia Council on Environmental Justice.

In a statement, 9th District Democratic Committee chair Mary Lynn Tate said: “We’re pleased that Taysha DeVaughan made the tough decision to step up. We know she values our goal to protect democracy and fight for the rights of workers including our union workers. We know she would have voted for the federal infrastructure bill, essential for the future of SWVA. We know she would have voted for the baby formula supplement bill to feed our children, not provide tax breaks for the corporate rich.” 

Griffith was elected to Congress in 2010; he will be seeking his seventh term this fall. He was unopposed in 2020. Since his first election, Griffith’s vote share when he has an opponent has ranged from 61.3% (2012) to 72.1% (2014). Redistricting has reshaped the 9th district to take out Griffith’s hometown of Salem (members of Congress are not required to live in the district, just the state) while adding in parts of Henry County that were previously split between two districts, as well as Franklin County and most of Bedford County. The special masters who drew the new lines for the Virginia Supreme Court filed a report that listed the newly-configured 9th district as 70.2% Republican based on the 2020 presidential election results.

In announcing for re-election in the 9th last December, Griffith said: ““I have called Southwest Virginia home my entire life, and I have worked tirelessly for the communities I represent. Despite the tremendous size of the 9th congressional district, I have been amazed by the overwhelming support I have received as I travel throughout the region.”

The 9th District. Courtesy of Virginia Supreme Court.